A life-transforming trip to Calais from Portsmouth

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Portsmouth should be proud for all it has so far done to support refugees living, or perhaps ‘surviving’ is a better word, in Calais.

As I disembarked the ferry at Calais in the early hours of Saturday morning, I was welcomed by miles of barbed wire fencing at least 12ft high.

Soon I approached the refugee camp, otherwise known as The Jungle, where 5,000 people are existing.

The drive into the heart of the town left me on edge for what was soon to happen.

Completely oblivious of what to expect, I anticipated the worst. I tried to convince myself that if my worst fears weren’t realised, it would be a bonus.

I was in an impossible position to even consider what was going to take place; there was just so much happening.

Five vans drove as a convoy from Portsmouth and were rammed with various items to give refugees aid.

Clothing, shelters, medical supplies and food were divided across our group. And what must have taken hours to pack was gone in minutes.

Hundreds of desperate refugees swarmed the vehicles to grab anything that could enhance their quality of life.

To see the desperation of so many, especially when scrambling for food, was completely eye-opening and really placed life here in England in perspective.

There seemed to be no children present at The Jungle, just men and a few women. Children were left behind as the adults concentrated on themselves.

I found it impossible to get to grips with what it must be like to live in those conditions. There was rubbish everywhere and in places the area reeked of sewage.

I spoke to one man who had been living in The Jungle for three months. His determination and drive to get into the UK was incredible.

With bruises all over his body he told me how he tries to jump on to trains in a desperate bid to get through the tunnel and into the UK.

I also met a 17-year-old called Admiz who claimed he was comfortable living where he was just as long as didn’t have to return to his country.

To summarise the weekend of events seriously placed life back at home into perspective.

It is so easy to have a broken heart when you watch thousands struggle on the television, but when you experience that environment for yourself it is life-transforming.

People are entitled to their opinion although it is imperative we understand this is no longer a political issue but a humanitarian crisis.